Live report: Next Exit to Nowhere & Presence of soul

by Grungi

(Pictures -from a cellphone- by Laurie Delmer)

On the first day of february, something happened. For an hour, time stood still, my whole universe centered around what was happening a couple of meters before my eyes. Eerie guitar melodies filled the air, as if coiling around melodic basslines and the precise hits of a drummer. And on top of it all, a voice. Gentle yet powerful, aerial yet filled with feeling.

I was in the Spirit of 66 in Verviers on monday, and I saw Presence of soul work their magic.

This was a special night, that is sure. Arriving something like an hour early with two friends, we had the chance to chat a little bit with some members of the organisation (who were, let it be known, really nice people) about how we came to know about the show and the band. Because Presence of soul isn’t really what you would call a “famous” band, though they’d deserve to be.

The Japanese post-rock outfit were concluding their first three-dates European tour, and were playing in the Spirit of 66, which is not a venue that’s specialized in post-rock, unlike places like the Vaartkapoen for example. Rather, they usually host progressive/classic rock bands. So, the relative obscurity of the band and the unusual genre for the place unfortunately combined to reduce the attendance to somewhere probably less than 50 as far as I could guess.

The low attendance made me a bit disappointed for the bands, but I could do nothing about it, so I concentrated on the music when the opening act stepped onto the stage. During their show, they displayed a number of very interesting ideas, but unfortunately some playing mistakes and on the whole a lack of stage presence (the only word the band adressed to the audience was “Merci”, which is nice, but they didn’t even present themselves, nor say goodbye, and yet they speak the local language) prevented the show to move beyond being “good”.

That being said, I’m not that familiar with Next Exit to Nowhere (excellent name, by the way), but what I heard of them before the live was very good, and in my opinion way better than the live versions. I do suspect some technical problems though, for example regarding the drums microphones.

Afterwards, it was Presence of soul’s turn to step up and make some noise. And from the get-go, they showed they meant business. Even with such a small audience, they really put on an impressive show. And they confirmed something I’m starting to notice about Japanese post-rock bands : they look beautiful on stage. The way they move, the total abandon, the sheer energy, the obvious pleasure to be on stage are unparalleled. MONO, Presence of soul, envy… All these bands have something in common on stage, something that Explosions in the sky or Yndi Halda don’t.

But aestethics asides, the music was jaw-dropping. Compared to the album, the drums and bass really shone and took a bit of the focus away from the guitars, which are more prevalent on the recording. YUKI’s voice was every bit as good as on the CD, and on the whole, I’m impressed at how they manage to improve their songs live compared to the album. I honestly didn’t think it was possible to such an extent.

I could probably go on for many pages about the virtues of the band, but I’d rather urge every one who has the chance to go and catch them live. It’s more than worth it.

After the show, we even had the chance to greet them, and the impression they gave off from the stage wasn’t proved wrong : they were happy to exchange a few words with those of us who approached us (in something not totally unlike English), and take pictures or sign CDs. It was a great way to finish off an amazing night.

As a closing word, a big thanks to all the people involved : to the management of the Spirit of 66 for hosting this show, to Higashi Music for making it happen (you deserve much praise guys, I’ll continue to follow your activities from now on), and to Next Exit to Nowhere for taking up the difficult task of opening in front of so few people. And, of course, thanks to Presence of soul for turning a normal monday evening into one my perfect birthday present !

Some links :

Next Exit To Nowhere : official websiteMySpaceGarageBand
Presence of soul : official websiteMySpaceFacebook
Higashi Music : official websiteFacebook